2016 A Compelling Year

Cinematic Story TellingMillennials are now the audience that determines a filmmaker’s success. We all saw it coming, but didn’t realize it would get here so quickly due to the large Baby Boomer population (Generation X not being big enough to have made its own impact on the box office). The line has now been crossed and profitability is directly tied to whether or not a filmmaker is compelling in the eyes of the younger generation.

Compelling is defined as evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way. It also means inspiring conviction and not able to be resisted. To create compelling projects a filmmaker must first be relevant.

The content in faith-based films is the least relevant, as the market niche demands only stories that reflect their hope and not reality. This means that a faith-based film is not likely to ever show a protagonist in a cohabitation relationship – Known to Baby Boomers as fornication. The character will either be single and living alone or married.

However, USA Today published a recent article about those who call themselves Christian between the ages of 18 – 31. It turns out that in the national poll 65% of them were in cohabitation relationships. Since faith-based movies do not reflect the majority of the Millennials’ reality, the films are irrelevant and far from compelling.

It is therefore easy to project that faith-based films will disappear before generation Z influences the box office. The only caveat to the statement might come in the form of a new breed of filmmakers who shows cohabitation in its true light – Both the perceived good and the documented bad within the boundaries of spiritual conviction (Compelling = Inspiring Conviction). Not judgment, but conviction.

Not only is a compelling filmmaker required to be relevant in content, but he or she also must be relevant in platforms. During the Producers Guild of America’s “Producers on Producing” panel at the NAB, all four speakers shared on the importance of cross-platform strategy. Sesame Street Senior Producer Benjaming Lehmann said, “If you’re not on all the mobile devices, you’re not really compelling.”

Since platforms require different styles for success, the filmmaker has to become a great producer who can mold various parts of his product into a marketable story for various platforms. It’s no longer about making a great trailer, but making a connection with the audience.

Caitlin Burns, a producer and Vice Chair of the PGA’s New Media Council, shared on the changes in relationship between content creators and consumers. “There is a lot more understanding that you are going to be in dialogue with your audience,” she said. “We are seeing the audience less as an object and more as a subject.”

To be compelling in 2016 filmmakers must turn their film projects into conversations. The content must be truthful and relevant. Gone are the days of films built in a world of hope and dreams. They must now be first grounded in reality and then inspire the audience through compelling content to consider a better life for their future.

There is nothing wrong with convicting an audience on a topic when it’s based first in reality. Nor is there anything attractive about a future hope that doesn’t show the audience how to get there from their own reality. The key is to create a compelling story that is based in reality and inspires the audience to take a new action in their lives.

And, creating a series of related shorts (by branding) that work very differently than the film will allow the filmmaker to be compelling on various platforms. A cool trailer on YouTube promoting a film is no longer enough to generate an audience. To be compelling some form of the brand must be on all mobile devices and the top eight social sites. This requires eight different forms of branded content for success. Putting one short on eight platforms no longer works.

What are you doing this year to create compelling content?

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

3 thoughts on “2016 A Compelling Year

  1. Will there ever be a time when God is irrelevant? Maybe in this world to those who chose to ignore true reality. However, God will not be mocked. If USA Today published a national poll, what would those in other countries say about what is real and relevant. They make up a portion of the market as well. I do not believe that cohabitation is the only or main relevancy to the millennial generation. No matter the popular poll, Jesus will never be irrelevant period. It is the reason we exist. “In Him we live, and breath and have our being.” And thus I believe that movies that contain Faith in Christ based material will always be relevant. They may not be popular but always relevant and much needed.

    • John,
      I selected cohabitation, not because it was “the only or main relevancy,” but because I recently read an article about it. Had I read about employees stealing pens from their employers, I would have used that example. The point of the article was that films must be compelling. Relevance is only one example of what makes a film compelling.
      As for your belief that faith in Christ based material will always be relevant, I have to disagree and I’ll explain why. But first, let me be clear that relevance and value are two very different things. The definition of relevant is “closely connected.”
      You are closely connected to Christ based materials and see its relevance. However, an audience member who is not closely connected to those materials doesn’t see any relevance until a filmmaker draws the connection for him, which many faith-based films don’t do.
      Let’s say a faith-based film is about grace. And, let’s say their is a man in the audience who is a sinner, but doesn’t think it’s bad. The material on grace is irrelevant to him based on his current perspective. Now, let’s say you have a character in a film who sins in the same way as the man in the audience. And, your character learns the consequences of sin and how grace will cover his sin and make him whole. The character accepts it and finds he has a new life.
      The man in the audience followed the story from the character’s perspective, exploring the same information. This results in him now having a close connection between sin and its transformation through grace. The topic is therefore now relevant to him.
      I hope that clarifies my point.

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